Sunday, March 04, 2001

Drivers dodging potholes again




By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

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One of Cincinnati's two automatic pothole-filling trucks works on Fairbanks Avenue near Delhi Road.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Jerome Kuntz describes the drive from his Alexandria, Ky., home to his Reading job as a game of pothole dodge-ball.

        “Once you know where they're at and you dodge (them), there's another one in front of you,” he said. “Depending on which lane of the highway you're in, it can be pretty scary.”

        It's not over when he gets to his job as a manager of a Tire Discounters branch. There, he sees drivers who haven't managed to avoid the asphalt traps that jolt and jar their tires.

        “I see it every day,” said Mr. Kuntz. “In and out, people coming in with tires that have been blown up from running into potholes. They're pretty worked up about it. Some people are upset and some people are real mad. You just have to be real safe when you're out there.”

REPORT POTHOLES
  Residents and city employees can report pothole problems by e-mailing pot.hole@rcc.org.
        With spring so close, it's prime time for potholes. Dipping and soaring temperatures are causing pavement cracks to expand and contract —— opening the way to pothole formation.

        Transportation officials say maintenance crews are prepared to fix potholes soon after they appear.

        “The only time we're not out filling is when the trucks are actively doing snow removal,” said Diana Frey, spokeswoman for Cincinnati's Department of Public Services. “I don't know of any place that is pothole-free, but we certainly would like to make it best for the public.”

        Every day 10 maintenance crews take care of potholes, said Bob Townsend, a public services supervisor.

        Weather factors into the numbers but, he noted, the city's pothole problem has lessened.

        As of two weeks ago, the city had fixed 9,775 potholes. That compares with 32,000 for January, February and March 1999. Figures for 2000 were not available.

        Also, fewer drivers are filing claims against the city because of pothole damage. Eleven claims have been filed this year, compared with fewer than 100 in 2000 and 166 in 1999.

        Some potholes are inevitable.

        “There's just no way around it,” said Tom Schomaker, district maintenance engineer of the the Kentucky Department of Transportation's Northern Kentucky office. “All you can do is keep them to a minimum.”

        Pavement has air pockets for flexibility and durability. But that's also what makes it susceptible to cracks under the constant pounding of traffic.

        Moisture gets in the cracks. Those cracks contract and expand as the moisture freezes and thaws. The weight of the traffic causes the crack to implode and a pothole is born.

        Gary Middleton, roadway services manager for Ohio Department of Transportation's southwest Ohio district, says December's record cold helped fight potholes. But now the weather is changing.

        In the seven-county southwestern district, ODOT poured 111 tons of asphalt to repair potholes between October and February. That compared with 132 tons poured for that same period in 2000, Mr. Middleton said.

       



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